Internet is a play ground for computer experts but for medical professionals it is nothing more than a complex labyrinth owing to the technical finery and experience it requires. In today’s era not having an online presence is akin to not having a business card. It is now more important than ever for businesses including medical professionals, to have a website.
While most oblivious people do not know what goes into making a webpage searchable, but let me tell you that there are certain ways in which you can influence the search engine in a manner that your website comes out on top (or the first page of search results). It is collectively called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
What is SEO and why is it important?
Imagine a patient who wants to find a medical professional who deals with skin infection. She logs on to Google and enters the query: “skin infection doctors”. Google displays millions of results for relevant websites in a mere 0.2-0.5 seconds. This result is displayed in a page after page format with about 10 results on each page. Now what do you think how far in the page directory would she go to finalize a doctor? According to dotcominfoway 91% people finish their search on the first page of results with top 3 results getting 61% of search clicks!
It means unless a person is dedicated to find your service specifically, you must appear in at least top ten results to get tangible traffic from search engines. SEO is the process of improving and promoting your website on various platforms to show up higher in search engine’s results for unique keywords like “skin infection doctors”.
There is a difference between a search engine’s assessment and a human interpretation of your website. Although the engine’s algorithms have become increasingly sophisticated, they still can’t understand content the same way a human can. SEO helps Google’s bots to understand what your page actually is and how is it useful for users. In simpler term, it makes your page legible for a machine reading.
Internet for Medical Diagnosis
Google says that its one in 20 search results are for health related information. People frequently look up internet for common and sometimes serious diseases. Because of its critical importance Google is paying extra attention to medical websites and its information. They rolled out knowledge graph in Google app and now a symptom search feature to detect your disease.
Google’s diagnosis of a health condition is based on user’s search query. The search engine will show a side-bar when queried with various illness related search terms. The side bar will include information about the disease person might be suffering , treatments, whether it is contagious, illustrations, graphs, links to medical sites, and much more.
Prem Ramaswami, the product manager of Google’s new initiative, claims that the information and facts are gathered by a team of doctors led by Dr. Kapil Parakh (M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) who taught at the Johns Hopkins medical school, and was among the White House fellow in 2013-14 before joining Google in january 2015.
Ramaswami warns about the usage of information “That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions. What we present is intended for informational purposes only—and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.”
This reasserts that although the information is “out there” but an overload of results can get people paranoid and mistake an allergic reaction for an STD- or vice versa!
Importance of Internet for Medical Professionals
Any medical practitioner would agree that a diagnosis by Google as a substitute for doctor visit or medical consultation can be life threatening, and a borderline senility if one starts some medicine without prescription. Now when a person checks his symptoms and narrows down his illness to a specific condition, the medical professionals enlisted by Google is where the patient rebounds to. And your rank in search results becomes the deciding factor for acquiring new patients.
Whether you are a practitioner, physician, dentist, or even a hospital, it is as important as any business to maintain an online presence and search engine rankings. In addition to driving new business, it encourages your existing customer base to keep engaged with your service.
Hiring a professional for online marketing
There are some misconceptions about online marketing and SEO including:
- Fears of high costs
- Intangible results
- Poor Returns on Investment (ROI)
- An unbearably long process.
Or simply the belief that digital marketing is not important for a business.
But it is.
Google’s 2012 study states that 44% patients scheduled an appointment with hospitals after an online research. And that search drives 3x as many visitors to hospitals as compared to non-search sources. Though a lot goes into narrowing down a marketing firm for your medical service but undertake the following approach for best results:
- Know your current value: Analyze the current value of your company by doing a free SEO audit. It generates results showing areas for improvement. Search for services to tweak specific sections of your website.
- Prepare an outline: Before engaging with a digital marketing agency, create a summary of your firm. Focus on:
- Your requirements- Specific issue you want the agency to resolve like site visibility, traffic, patient engagement etc.
- Budget- An upper and lower limit of how much you are willing to invest.
- Key Performance Indicators- How to measure the success of your SEO? Sales, first page views, Conversion rate etc.
- Use listing services and Econsultancies: local listings and consultancies have a huge profile of companies. Choose according to your preferences. Make sure to list as many companies as possible.
- Cut short the list: Narrow down your list considering following factors:
- Location: SEO is a continuous process. You would have to communicate number of times to check the progress. Though internet is replete with digital marketing services transcending physical borders but a “more personal touch” would be better.
- Their websites: Home pages indicate the quality of a company. Analyze it and reduce your list based on the following features:
- Work history- Check portfolios and the quality of their work on similar projects
- Technical Skills and expertise of staff- Review if the staff is adept with latest tools and techniques.
- Contact page- Make sure that the company has a physical address (in proximity) and various ways to contact.
- Social media and blogs- Analyze their social media page and make sure it’s active and that the blog is not “dead”.
- Contact agencies: While there are various ways to get in touch with the shortlisted agencies but it’s always better to send an email summarizing your requirements and objectives. As soon as things start to seem promising set up a meeting or phone call. Ask relevant probing questions like:
- How frequently do you communicate with your clients?
- How are your services billed? Discounts for bulk order? Payment options?
- Have you worked with medical professionals before? If yes, what was your experience?
- What is the technical qualification of your team? What are they proficient in?
- Do I have an option to reexamine the contract in between the marketing campaign?
- Decide: Assuring yourself of the agency upon favorable answers to your doubts as above try to bring down the price by offering long term association and a adjustable requirements. Take your time and compare the quotes of all the shortlisted agencies before making a decision.
How to SEO your website?
Though online marketing in medical domain is still a latent concept but due to the increasingly competitive marketplace, it is important for medical professionals to not only market their services, but to market them well. While it is advised to save your time and hire a professional service for the SEO of your website but you can opt to learn SEO step by step. These simple tweaks can instantly boost your website’s engageability:
- A Visual appeal– SEO is not just about reaching patients, it is also about providing valid and useful information in a consumable way. The longer a patient stays on your website, the better is your SEO. Use minimalist templates, images, infographics of common diseases, videos etc.
- Responsive Web Design– Make sure to cater the mobile and tablet user base with a website that adapts to the device and screen resolution.
- Fast loading time– Much of your website’s elements can be optimized for a reduced loading time, but the main elements are images, video players and CSS. Make sure to host from a fast and reliable server.
- Submit a sitemap to Webmasters- It makes the website easy for search engines to recognize and display in search result. Create a sitemap and enable the Google spiders to crawl through your content.
- Use Social media actively to post insightful content and link it to your blogs. More the social media traffic better is your SEO.
- On page and off page SEO- Select suitable keywords, which your patients are likely to find with the help of Google keyword planner. Build the content of your website and blog around those keywords. Create backlinks to your content from sites having good domain authority.
With websites like WebMD and Internet mogul Google becoming your direct competitor medical professionals have to start taking their web presence more seriously. Utilize your website, social media and other online medical marketing techniques to define what your service exactly offers, how will it benefit patients and most importantly to let people know that you exist!